Saturday, 25 February 2012

Kärleken av Theodor Kallifatides (3.5/5)

Baksidan säger: Laki saris är snart 40. Han är gift med Lena och tillsammans har de en fyraårig son. Men så möter Laki den betydligt yngre Li som han handlöst förälskar sig i. Förhållandet får dramatiska konsekvenser för Lakis liv. Han rannsakar sig själv och kärlekens alla aspekter; kärleken mellan man och kvinna, mellan föräldrar och barn och mellan vänner.

Kärleken som kom ut första gången 1978 har blivit en modern klassiker och är en av Kallifatides mest älskade böcker.

Jag säger: Jag hade lite svårt med den här boken; ibland var språket sparsmakat och vackert – nästan poetiskt – men ofta var det lite väl pretentiöst och klichéartat att det nästan gled in på Coelhos revir. Men om man bortser från de stunderna så var det en lite smått melankoliskt vacker berättelse som jag brukar älska.

Boken är upplagd som att Laki pratar/skriver till Li och berättar hur och varför det blev som det blev mellan dem, och mellan honom och Lena. Han är en otroligt svag och nästan ynklig människa, Laki, men det som gör honom sympatisk är att han själv är medveten om sina brister. Han ursäktar inte dem, eller sig själv; han bara berättar – nästan lite likgiltigt ibland som om den här mannen han blivit inte riktigt har med honom att göra; att det här livet inte riktigt tillhör honom.

Jag tycker om den vemodiga atmosfären, även om den ibland skiftar mot lite smått patetiska trakter. Jag känner hela tiden att jag vill att Laki ska göra något – vad som helst – och när han äntligen gör det så blir det lite pannkaka av det.

I min mening.

Kanske trodde jag att han skulle motbevisa mig och vända på allting; bevisa att alla de här känslorna som han påstod sig ha verkligen var hans och inte bara något han pratade om.
Men tji fick jag.
Det här är den förta boken jag läser av Kallifatides och om jag skulle snubbla över en till någon dag så kommer jag läsa den men jag kommer inte aktivt söka upp honom.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Definitely Too Much

I received my batch of pre-ordered books from the book sale yesterday and today I went to three book stores as well, and I’m thinking that all my plans of not going overboard were nothing more than wishful thinking. There’s so much amazingness staring back at me that I can’t even know where to start.

But the best part of this year’s book sale is that I managed to stay below my budget of €60.


This (hopefully final) batch contains:
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
The Complete Dictionary of English Etymology by Wordsworth Reference(because I’m a grammar nerd)
The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Wise Children by Angela Carter
The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies
Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope
Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga
The Great Lover by Jill Dawson
Sunset Park by Paul Auster
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (I may own this already)
Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer Lytton
Jack Sheppard by William Ainsworth
The Appointment by Herta Müller
Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett
The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
Because I’m a Girl by Various Authors
The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden (I love this movie)
The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

All in all I’m really happy with this year’s book sale because I stayed within budget and still managed to get an amazing 54 books! A lot of them are by writers I’ve never read, a few of them are genres that I normally don’t pay attention to, and a few are for my classics challenge – it’s a motley crew staring back at me, and the book nerd in me is patting herself on the back and trying to organize some sort of reading pattern out of the mess.

Note to self: buy new bookshelves.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Too Much…?

The annual book sale in Sweden starts on Wednesday; this is when all the book stores put the exact same books on sale, but at different prices. They send out catalogues a couple of weeks beforehand and I usually go through them all, write a list of what to get where and then go crazy on the day. This year I gave myself a budget and said I wouldn’t go crazy, but then two weeks ago they had a pre-sale online and I ordered 12 books (3 were sold out already) and it was only half of my budget.

I felt accomplished.

However, last week I found a few books in the used book store, and today I chanced by a new outlet store by one of the biggest book chains in Sweden and went absolutely mental. To be noted is that it's hard finding good English books in Sweden that aren't crime novels or chic lit, so I just tend to buy everything that doesn't fall under those two categories.

Staring at this pile is now making me feel all sorts of guilty.

And giddy.

I think a book buying ban is in order.

They usually never work for me, but I really need to stop buying books and start reading. It’s been a slow reading year so far, although I’ve read more Swedish books so far than all of last year (which is awesome). But I really should start with some of my challenges.

Ah well, my pile of total insanity consists of:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I think I may already own this)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
She by H. Rider Haggard (100 Classics Challenge)
Vlad: The Last Confession by C. C. Humphreys
Ravens by George Dawes Green
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
Ransom by David Malouf
The Holy City by Patrick McCabe
Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertész
Washing Dishes in Hotel Paradise by Eduardo Belgrano Rawson
Home by Marilynne Robinson
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding
An Elegy for Easter by Petina Gappah
The Dark Volume by G. W. Dahlquist
The Divine Comedy by Dante
Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The House of the Dead & The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Generation A by Douglas Coupland
Waiting by Ha Jin
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (I hate this book, but I plan to re-read it someday)
Middlemarch by George Eliot (100 Classics Challenge)
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
Moscow 2042 by Vladimir Voinovich
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Washington Square by Henry James
Remembering Audrey by Bob Willoughby

I also got something silly called Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Maya Slater, not pictured because the second page of the first diary entry made me hurl it across the room because it was just so offensive (more on that later).

So yeah, I’m pretty much set for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Dangerous Liaisons by Choderos de Laclos (4/5)

The back says: For the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont seduction is a game. As their intrigues become increasingly duplicitous and they find their human pawns responding in ways they could not have predicted, the consequences are more deadly that they could have guessed.

I say: I saw the film of this some years ago, and I remember it leaving a deep impression on me, and when reading this I remembered some details about the story, but it was a tad hazy.

Apart from the final scene.

The novel is made up of a series of letters sent between a group of people and presented to us by a publisher. It took me a while to get into this because I couldn’t stand the hyperbole and sentimentality of some of these letters. It was really annoying reading about how much and deeply they loved each other, and the only thing that kept me going was the scheming between the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont. However, somewhere around the 250 page mark it started getting a bit more interesting and the final 50 or so pages were worth all the tedium of the first 200.

Apart from the way Merteuil and Valmont completely play all those around them, the best part was their views on virtue, society, marriage, love, the difference between the sexes, and pretty much everything else they discussed. I don’t think it would be too harsh to call them both utter misanthropes. 

Well, maybe Merteuil more than Valmont.

I suck at writing synopses, and would really muddle everything up if I were to attempt it here. But as imaginative and riveting as the plot was, the real joy for me in this novel lies in the language (when it wasn’t sentimental declarations of love). I loved the way Laclos carved out the characters not only by how they wrote to each other, but also how they each were perceived by each other.  Cécile Volanges’ letters were a chore and a half, and some of the old ladies’ letters bored me to no end, but I still have to note the beauty of the language, and gems like this:

“It is so easy to be a bigot in writing! It never harms anyone else, and is no bother to oneself… “ – p 255, Merteuil to Valmont.

There are so many great quotes in here.

To be noted is that there is an abundance of literary references in this as well, which is always a joy to me – especially if it’s works I haven’t read.

Having said all that, I would like to have given this a full 5/5, but because I had to struggle in the beginning I’m bumping it down to a 4. I can easily see myself reading this again in a couple of years starting from somewhere around page 250.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Dear Olly by Michael Morpurgo (3/5)

The back says: As Olly waits for her brother’s letters, she watches the swallows preparing to leave for the winter. Hero the swallow starts his long journey to Africa, not knowing the terrible dangers he will meet on the way. And when Matt sees the children in the African orphanage – sick, injured and lonely – he knows he’s made the right decisions, but he never could have dreamt of what was going to happen to him there…
A story in three movements, told by three voices – a lyrics tale of family, love and determination.

I say: This made me smile in that way I only smile when something is sweet and just right. It’s a children’s book so there isn’t much to say about the writing in itself, but the illustrations were wonderful.

In a way I loved this story; the way Olly, Matt and the swallows lives were tied together, but at the same time I didn’t like the simplicity of it all. Yes, I understand that for the targeted demographic this is wonderful, but for me it left a little to be desired.

Having said that, Morpurgo talks about the life of the orphans in Africa without sugarcoating or patronizing the reader; these things are happening every day and I do love the way he shows the many different ways one can help – Matt’s being one.

I know virtually nothing about children’s books, and it says nothing about age on the cover, but I’d probably have read this at 7 or 8.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Brev till Utlandet av Eric Ericsson (4/5)

Baksidan säger: För tre år sedan kom Eric Ericssons Brev till Samhället och blev på kort tid något av en kultbok och döpt till en av de roligaste böckerna i Sverige någonsin. I denna bok har Eric Ericsson skrivit en fortsättning och han har här inte nöjt sig med att skriva till institutioner eller företag i Sverige – nu skriver han brev till världen – han har faktiskt skrivit brev till alla världens länder: han skriver att det är viktigt att inte ge dubbla budskap till djur, han undrar varför chokladtillverkaren har lagt ett spelkort i kartongen, han är oroad för att hans son röker corn flakes, han vill besöka centralbanken i Österrike med 19 mimdansare och de kommer på torsdag, han vänder sig till en tvålfabrikant i Kina som erbjuder sig att skapa en tvål som går att äta, och han undrar om en frikyrka i London kan hjälpa till med att viga hans husdjur.

Jag säger: Detta är precis den typ av låg humor som jag gillar, så jag skrattade högt till många av breven. Ericsson är väldigt barnslig och lite jobbig många gånger, och det är just att folk tar honom på allvar som gör detta så bra.

Jag tänkte hela tiden att de måste ju förstå att han inte menar allvar.

Då jag jobbat med kundtjänst och egentligen vet hur dumma människor kan vara, så var vissa av hans affärsförslag så långsökta att det är nästintill otroligt att folk inte förstod. Jag menar, han skrev till en veterinärskola och sa sig vara från ett kebabbolag som ville köpa kött av dem en gång i månaden.

Jag kommer nog återkomma till den här lite då och då när jag behöver skratta lite.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille (3/5)

The back says: In 1928 Georges Bataille published under a pseudonym this first novel, a legendary shocker that uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden, obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. A classic of pornographic literature, Story of the Eye finds parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille’s own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work.

I say: My first reaction when I finished this was “wtf did I just read?”

For serious.

When I ordered this, my book store labeled it as erotica – which is all well and good. However, as soon as I started reading it became clear to me that this was hardcore pornography; gruesome, brutal and, in my opinion, very repulsive.

I was cringing pretty much all the way through.

When we were in Amsterdam last year we went to their sex museum and saw this painting of a vagina with an eye in it, which lead us to wonder where this imagery came from (we’ve seen a reference to this before in art and music).

Well, now I know.

And I wish I didn’t.

There isn’t much to be said about the translation I read by Joachim Neugroschel because I’m not going to read any other translation to compare. The language was crude and vulgar, all in line with the story being told, and not much to comment on. The story itself was ridiculously unbelievable and here’s the crux about this novel: taken at face value it’s very much not my cup of tea, but if you look deeper there a lot of themes to be explored in here.

I liked the fact that there were a few pages after the story where Bataille explains the imagery and where it came from, as that offered a clearer picture of why he wanted to write this novel. He calls them “coincidences”, but clearly they are not.

3/5 because despite the shock of what I read I realize now, a week later, that I’ll never get the image of the eye out of my head it is more than just a lurid pornographic tale, and maybe someday I’ll be able to analyse it further.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Som Om Ingenting av Katarina von Bredow (2.5/5)

Baksidan säger: På skrivarkursen träffar nittonåriga Elin Paul. De finner en speciell samhörighet och sakta börjar det utvecklas något mellan dem. Elin blir kär. Allvarligt kär. Men Paul är tjugofem år äldre. Och han är far till Elins bästa kompis. Elin kämpar emot. Det får inte hända, det finns inte. Men det händer i alla fall.

Jag säger: Den här boken var väl egentligen ingenting märkvärdigt. Jag trodde att det skulle vara så mycket mer än det var, och det kanske har mer med mig att göra än von Bredow, men lite besviken är jag.

Jag läste ut den på ett par timmar glömde den lika fort. Ingen utav karaktärerna fastnade eller kändes trovärdiga. Elin skulle vara lite av allt; hon skrev och tyckte sig vara djup och intelligent men jag såg ingenting som visade endera; hon skar sig lite så där i förbifarten; blev deprimerad och slutade äta; och var otroligt självupptagen.

Jag tyckte inte om henne.

Och speciellt inte det hon packade ner i sin väska i slutet av boken. Ingenting i boken visade något tecken på att hon skulle gå den vägen, och hux flux så tycker hon att allt ska ta slut.

Nej, det känns som att von Bredow har läst en lista på alla element man ska ha med i en nutida ungdomsroman och sett till att hon bockat av alla utan något slags sammanhang. Det kändes som att hon tog för lätt på alla ämnen hon tog upp – ingenting utvecklades.

2.5/5 för att det kunde ha varit så bra, men blev bara meh.